Operation Aphrodite was a series of bombing runs by explosive-laden aircraft piloted by a skeleton crew who would parachute from the aircraft before detonation. After U.S. Army Air Forces Operation missions were drawn up on July 23, 1944, Kennedy and Lieutenant Wilford John Willy were designated as the first Navy flight crew. Willy had pulled rank over Ensign "FNU" Simpson (who was Kennedy's regular co-pilot) to be on the mission.
They flew a modified version of the B-24 Liberator (code named "Anvil") for the U.S. Navy's first Aphrodite mission. Two Lockheed Ventura mother planes and a navigation plane took off from RAF Fersfield. Next, the BQ-8 "robot" aircraft loaded with 21,170 lb (9,600 kg) of Torpex took off. It was to be used as a guided missile against the V-3 cannon site in Mimoyecques, France.
Following 300 ft (91 m) behind them in a de Havilland Mosquito to film the mission was Colonel Elliott Roosevelt, son of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Kennedy and Willy were aboard as the BQ-8 completed its first remote-control turn. Two minutes later and ten minutes before the planned crew bailout, the Torpex detonated prematurely and destroyed the Liberator. Wreckage landed near the village of Blythburgh in Suffolk, England.